Digital Skills Series: Tips for Effortless E-Commerce
Welcome to the second part of our Digital Skills Series, where we’re going to explore some of the basic principles of e-commerce for small businesses. Building an online selling platform is a fantastic way for small businesses to diversify their revenue streams, reach new audiences and grow their overall online presence, but knowing exactly how to accomplish all of this without expert help can be a challenge!
To help your business achieve its e-commerce ambitions, we’ll be covering all of the basics in this article; from tips for setting up your first ecommerce platform, right through to handling online transactions seamlessly and securely.
When should you invest in e-commerce?
As a small business, one eye is always on new opportunities for growth, particularly in the digital sphere. It’s no secret that online shopping has become incredibly popular, making up 30%1 of total retail sales in 2020 alone. Combine this with an abundance of affordable, user friendly e-commerce platforms and the ability to make secure, one touch online payments with tools like PayPal and Apple Pay, online selling has become an incredibly attractive proposition, even for the smallest
But when’s the best time to take the plunge and begin building an e-commerce solution? It’s always a good idea to consider the practicalities first: Do you already have an active online presence that would further benefit from an online shop? Do you have the resources to handle the processing and delivery of online orders? Does your business’s products or services suit an e-commerce model? In short, making a comprehensive plan of exactly how your business will step into online selling will make the process considerably smoother and more efficient.
Choosing the right platform
So you’ve decided to take the plunge, and set up your first online store. The first thing you’ll notice is that the majority of businesses use third party ecommerce platforms to make online selling as simple and straightforward as possible. There are plenty of these platforms to choose from, all boasting the latest integrations, analytics and UX features, but it’s important to choose one that will suit your business model and budget, not to mention matching your customer’s expectations when they visit your site.
Some platforms like Wix or Squarespace will encourage you to develop an entire website that’s built from the ground up around their e-commerce solution. This can be a fantastic way to streamline your online presence, especially if this your first time building a website. On the other hand, if you already have an established website that you like, opting for a solution like Shopify or WooCommerce which integrates into your existing site might be the better option.It’s also really important to make sure that the e-commerce solution you choose can be properly built into your site, ensuring a seamless experience for your users. Sites built on platforms like WordPress will often have an officially established method of integration that will provide step by step instructions and troubleshooting support.
It’s also really worth spending some time exploring the differences between each e-commerce platform and choosing one that augments your existing digital strategy. For example, if you rely on social media to engage with your audience, make sure your chosen solution can integrate with the online shopping features on Facebook and Instagram. Similarly, ensuring your users will enjoy a great mobile experience and that you have the ability to easily scale up your online selling are also key features to double check when choosing a platform. Whatever your criteria,make sure your chosen e-commerce platform is one that will not only work for your business right now, but also well into the future.
Making online transactions secure and simple
Creating a successful online shopping experience means being able to keep potential customers secure as they browse. A recent survey suggested that in 2020, only 47%2 of consumers felt that online retailers could be trusted with basic personal information, suggesting that ecommerce businesses should be doing a lot more to keep their customers feeling safe.
Fundamentally, when it comes to making an online purchase, consumers want to know their personal information will be handled with the utmost security by the retailer. Ensuring that all customer data is secured with SSL (secure socket layer) encryption is a must, and should come as a standard with most e-commerce platforms. Additionally, small businesses can choose to make use of payment options provided by larger, trusted brands like Apple Pay, Google Pay and Paypal. Not only will consumers have the added security of using a familiar payment method, it’s highly likely they will also have their payment information saved and ready to go, creating a much faster and more streamlined buying experience. Accelerated checkout systems like these are supported by most of the major e-commerce platforms and can be a vital tool in helping small businesses create a slick, secure online shopping experience.
Measuring your success
Once you’ve got your online shop set up, a secure checkout system in place and the orders rolling in, your next steps should be focused on measurement and optimisation. Quite simply, this means building a picture of who your customers are, their buying habits and most importantly, what you can do to improve their experience when they buy from you.
If you’re using an e-commerce platform like Shopify, Wix or WooCommerce, you’ll already be able to access all sorts of really useful information, like your most popular products, the busiest days of the week and where in the world your customers are buying from. This kind of data can be invaluable when making decisions about which products to promote, or identifying the best time to launch a new product.
You can take your measurement even further by linking your e-commerce platform back into your marketing channels, like email and social media, or integrating a dedicated digital analytics platform like Google Analytics. From here you can see which marketing campaigns have been most successful, or how well your site works for customers on mobile. These kinds of integrations are really simple to set up and allow you to become truly proactive with your ecommerce strategy, by investing in more engaging marketing campaigns or improving the mobile conversion rate of key pages on your website. However you choose to do it, measuring your ecommerce performance is absolutely essential if you’re looking to build a successful online shopping experience for your business!
We hope you enjoyed this latest article in our Digital Skills Series! In this time of considerable uncertainty, E-commerce has become a strategic cornerstone for many small businesses looking for alternative ways to grow and thrive. In our next piece, we’ll be taking a look at how you can leverage some of Instagram’s latest features to grow your audience and improve brand awareness.
1. ‘Internet sales as a percentage of total retail sales (ratio) (%)’, ONS, 20.11.20, https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/retailindustry/timeseries/j4mc/drsi
2. ‘What You Need to Know About Securing Your Ecommerce Site Against Cyber Threats’, BigCommerce, 2020 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/ecommerce-website-security/#best-practices-for-ecommerce-securityl